With his time machine finally complete, Farrell had only to choose a point in the past or future to visit. If Moth were around, he might ask the fairy when exactly he might find this Aouregan he always expects to find with Farrell when they meet, but all he knows is it was a 'long time ago', which could mean anything by fairy standards. So instead he sets the time gauge for the year that MorcuCorp's genealogical records for his family begins, 663 CSE. He gives himself seven days, one week, hoping it will be enough to find what he's looking for, because once the time runs out, the machine will draw him back to the present, ready or not.
Farrell hesitates as the doors open. This is completely untested and he could find himself trapped in the past, or even have his atoms dispersed across the time stream if things really go wrong. But he plunges in anyway, trusting that he made no mistakes.
"We have now, we could have forever."
His voice is soft, whisper in her ear as he caresses her back. She doesn't see his face, pressed against her neck, and catches only a glimpse of his back in her mirror. No one from the village, she's sure of that, but who then? His arms around her are warm, loving, and she's never been this happy before.
The vision lingers with her as Aoregan mixes her elixirs. Maybe it was just a dream, she tells herself. It does get a bit lonely living alone out in the woods, so far from the village, it's no wonder her mind would conjure a companion for her while she slept.
"Catching a fat mouse for your dinner?" Aouregan laughs, watching Mist playing with a bit of fabric she'd made into a ball for him.
It had felt like a vision. And she should know the difference, she's had the sight since she was a girl. They don't always come to pass, but these snippets of possible futures always feel different from regular dreams.
"Come," she calls Mist, and head into the forest by her cottage while it is still light to gather mushrooms.
Well, this is the middle of nowhere, Farrell thinks. But of course, this early in the Middle Ages, there wasn't much in the way of civilization. In the distance he sees what might be a village, protected by a castle.
A sound to his left alerts him to the presence of another person, a woman gathering mushrooms. The fact that his appearance did not disturb her means that his arrival must have been silent. That's a good thing, he decides, glad that he didn't just manifest in the castle yard where his appearance might have frightened people.
He clears his throat, trying not to startle the woman, but she jumps up, a bit frightened to find a man in this quiet forest.
"Pardon me," Farrell says, "I'm looking for someone by the name of Ametair...would you..."
"Sssssh! Do not invoke that name here!" she gasps, "Especially not this close to nightfall, and so close to the full moon."
"I'm sorry," Farrell apologizes for his gaffe, "I've come a long way searching for...this person. I have reason to believe I may be related to him."
She backs away from him a few steps, "You are his pack? You are wolfen?"
"Wolfen?" he asks, very curious now, "No, I'm not. I don't know what you're talking about. All I have is a document with his name on it, a family record that suggests I might be related to...this person," he tries to explain, carefully avoiding mention of Ametair's name again.
She cocks her head to the side, looking him up and down, assessing him. "Are you fae, then?" she asks, "Or...something else?" Aouregan has theories about the dragons who hunt these forests, but she wouldn't speak them to a stranger. Or to anyone, really, not unless she had proof. "Your clothes are strange," she observes, "But not fae, not that I've seen, anyway."
"I'm not fae," he assures her, "I am human, like you."
His voice, she realizes, recognizing the soft timbre, he's the man from her vision. She blushes and ducks her head to hide her embarrassment, as though he might see her vision just by gazing on her face. "The sun will set soon, and the moon will rise. It will be best to be away from the woods. Come, my cottage is not far," she says, ignoring all the warning voices in her head repeating stories of what happen to young women alone when they encounter strange men in the woods. This one even claims kinship with the One that Hunts the Night, what more warning could she want to flee from him? But, despite all that, Aouregan trusts him. Maybe because of her vision, maybe because of his gentle demeanor, or the honesty of his words. If he were truly wolfen, he wouldn't approach her asking after the Hunt, after all.
Having nowhere else to go, with the village being a good day's walk away, Farrell follows the woman to her cottage.
"Do not take this badly," she says once he's inside, "But I must take precautions, for my safety, you understand."
She pulls a wand from the voluminous pockets of her skirt, chanting while she waves it in front of him. Farrell cringes as sparks fly from its tip.
"Don't be frightened," she says, "This won't hurt. Unless you try to harm me, then it will hurt. A lot."
She aims the wand at him, and he's bathed in a sparkling rainbow fora moment, and then it's gone.
"I didn't feel anything," he says dubiously.
"It's a protective spell," she explains, "You won't feel anything unless you try to harm me in any way. Then, you'll feel great pain, burning, like you've been set aflame."
Farrell laughs, not entirely convinced he was subjected to anything more than a pretty show of lights. "I actually have been set aflame a few times," he says, "But, I am not here to hurt you, or anyone. I'm just looking for answers, about who I am."
She sets food on her table and invites him to eat with her. "We haven't introduced ourselves, stranger," she observes as they dine together, "My name is Aouregan. They call me the witch of the woods, now, but I was once an Avendale. The Landgraabs took my name from me, like they took our land, our shrines...everything."
"You're Aouregan?" Farrell gasps in surprise, "I hadn't expected to find you here, too." Or Landgraabs, he thinks. The Landgraab family have long held executive positions of MorcuCorp, it is even said that they started the company. Some conspiracy theorists even claim the MorcuCorp had its birth from the Illsiminati, also rumored to be long run by the Landgraab family. What more do they know about his ancestry than he found in their documents, documents his mother says were left for him to find, bait for him to take to lead him...here? Back to the beginning? To do what? he wonders, wanting to discover the truth, but not wanting to be used as a pawn for their evil schemes.
Aouregan looks up from her plate, "Where did you expect to find me, then? How is it you've even heard of me, back wherever it is you're from?"
"My name is Farrell Brannon," he introduces himself, "And it was Moth who told me about you."
"You know Moth?" she asks in surprise.
"I do. Or, rather, I will, in the future. He wouldn't recognize me, here, now. I haven't met him yet." Farrell smiles to himself, thinking he must sound a lot like Moth right then.
"Do you...do you have the Sight?" Aouregan asks in a breathy whisper.
"Sight? You mean like clairvoyance? No, I know the future because I am from the future," he admits, deciding she might be able to accept the truth, since she's obviously open to believing the unbelievable, like magic and psychic abilities. "Thousands of years in the future. I met Moth one day, but he already knew me, saying we had met in the past. And he asked if you were with me."
Aouregan blushes again, tipping her head away and gazing at him from under her lashes, the way girls do when they're speaking to Elliot. "I... see," she murmurs and bites her lip, "I can take you to see Moth tomorrow. If you seek knowledge of...the Hunt...Moth might have answers. But if you are seeking kin here, you might want to pay a visit to the Brannons, their farm is just outside the village."
"I'd like to meet Moth," Farrell says, "In fact, that's probably mandatory. The Brannons here are likely to be my ancestors. I'm not sure if meeting them would be a good thing or not. I'll have to think about that."
She blushes again when she tells him she has no bed to offer, only some rough blankets to lay out on the wooden bench, or the floor as he prefers. He assures her he needs no better, and she climbs up the ladder to the sleeping loft, leaving him alone the main room. Not yet tired enough to sleep himself, his mind too busy considering what he should do with his time here; continue his pursuit of Ametair, who is a figure of fear and superstition here, or find out more about the Landgraabs and what connection they might have to all of this. MorcuCorp may not yet exist as an entity, but could there already be plans in motion that involve him? While he ponders these things, he plays with Aouregan;s cat, who has decided that the laser pointer is better magic than anything his mistress can conjure.
The next day, Aouregan takes him out to a circle of standing stones to meet Moth. The very circle where he will meet Moth in the future, thousands of years hence.
"Where is the entrance?" Farrell asks.
"To the tomb."
Aouregan's eyes widen. "This mound hasn't been used for burials since the most ancient days. Whatever entrance the ancient ones used to bring their dead inside is long buried."
"In the future, the mound has been excavated," Farrell says, "And I found something inside, something you left for me, according to Moth, anyway. But if the tomb is sealed, here, in your time, how do you get in to leave it for me?" Also, Farrell, wonders, how does he get the fuel for his time machine to leave for him if he doesn't give it to her? Because he hadn't expected to encounter her here, he didn't bring the fuel with him to give her.
"You profaned the Lady's tomb?" Aouregan gasps, "And you expect that I would...?"
"I'm sorry, I did. I don't know who the lady is. And her tomb was profaned centuries before I came to it. In the future...well, it's common practice. Some do it to rob tombs of treasure, others to study the past. I was looking for something else when I encountered Moth. He gave me some...magic dust...which he said would reveal whatever you left for me there, protected by a spell to hide it. The tomb had been plundered many times before me, and I took only what was left for me. I would not have been able to travel here without it."
"You do not know the Lady," Aouregan says sadly, "Then the Landgraabs truly own the future."
Their conversation is interrupted when Moth lands on Aouregan's nose.
"Moth," she says, raising her finger to gently lift him from her face, "I'd like to introduce you to a friend of mine."
"This is Farrell," Aouregan says, "He wishes to know about...the One who Hunts."
Moth looks him over briefly, "I see you arehis kin, but not hiskind," he says, "You aremortal. Howcanthisbe?"
"I was born thousands of years in the future," Farrell explains, "I am descended from this...One who Hunts, but the relation is very distant by now, and my ancestry is mostly all human. At least as far as I know..."
"Howare youhere, ifyou havenot been bornyet?" Moth asks, puzzled.
"I traveled through time, back to the past. I have met you before, Moth, in the future, in this very place, thousands of years from now."
"Youhave met me inthefuture?"
"It's a paradox," Farrell says with a smile. "When I meet you in the future, you told me about meeting you in the past."
Farrell laughs, "Paradox. Don't worry, you won't ever remember that word."
"Youare kin to Ametair," Moth says, apparently unafraid of invoking the name that frightens Aouregan so, "Allthesame, he mightnot take kindly toyou. Youare mortal. Youare kin, butnot his kind. Even my kind stayaway, mostly. Even hiskin. He huntswith his pack only."
"I may not need to meet him," Farrell says, "Just knowing who he is helps me understand. A little at least." At some point, soon if it hasn't happened already, this Ametair will impregnate a Brannon, and thousands of years in the future, MorcuCorp will send Pearl Yang out to seduce Heath Brannon, to mix his genes with hers. What did MorcuCorp hope to gain by the union? Did they expect him to be some kind of werewolf? Fairy? "Is Ametair some kind of fae, like you?"
"Somekind, notlike me," Moth says, "He isdifferent. Notpure." Moth sighs, looks around, "I shouldnot sayso much," he says, "Iwill ask. Iwill seeyou again, Farrell."
With that, Moth makes himself tiny, flutters around Aouregan for a minute and the flies off.
"I'm sorry that wasn't very illuminating," she apologizes as they walk away.
"No, it was. At least, I've learned more than I knew before, and that's always good," Farrell says, laying a comforting arm around her shoulder as they walk. "How is it that you are such good friends with a fairy?"
"I've known Moth since I was a child," Aouregan says, stepping a little closer to him, "He says he was ordered to watch over my line, though he's never said who gave him that order. They're very secretive. But I cannot go anywhere that Moth doesn't follow."
"I just don't know what to do, what I'm supposed to do, what I should avoid doing," Farrell lets out a frustrated sigh once they've returned to her cottage. "MorcuCorp's records point to this time, to Ametair and my family, but what are they after? What does it have to do with the Landgraabs? And you, Aouregan? Every time I see Moth, in the future, he asks if you are with me. What part do you play in this?"
Aouregan folds her arm around her torso, "The night before you came, I had a vision," she says, her voice a quiet whisper, "I saw you. And me."
"You're clairvoyant," he says, looking up at her, deciding to put aside his doubts and believe her the way she believed his story of time travel. "What did you see?"
She blushes deeply. He knows he can be a bit dense about reading people, but he understands her simple body language very clearly here. "I see," he ays, "They way Moth talks about us, like we are a set, like we belong together. But I don't believe in destiny, Aouregan, I don't believe anyone can see the future..."
"Unless you were born in it," she says with a light laugh, "No, what I see are glimpses of what might be. Some visions come to pass, some do not. Some can be avoided, others will come not matter how far you try to run from it, as though every path leads only directly to it."
"And this vision of you and me, Aouregan, which kind is it? Do you want to run from it? Toward it?"
"Standing as close as we are, I don't think any running is necessary at all," she answers, lifting a hand to his cheek, looking into his eyes without blushing now.
It's his first kiss, and every moment of it is emblazoned in his memory, the softness of her lips, the sweetness of her tongue, the rasp of the rough fabric of her gown against his hands. "I'd love to feel you skin," he sighs.
"Well, you're a bold one," she giggles, and it;s his turn to blush.
"I'm sorry, I have a habit of just saying what I'm thinking," he says, "I mean, not that I was thinking..."
"I like your honesty," she says, taking him by the hand and leading him up to her bed.
"Aouregan, I've never been with a woman," he admits, knowing that in his time, there's a certain stigma to a man his age, even as young as he still is, to have remained untouched for so long, "Before you, I've never even kissed a girl."
"Then this is a first time for us both," she answers gently, "We can learn from each other."
"I will find a way to take you home with me," he whispers, holding her as she play with his braid, "The machine is set to only bring back the person who entered it, but there must be some adjustment I could make, some equation..." Farrell dozes off as he considers the possibilities. One week is just not going to be enough...